Yesterday, as I was casually flipping channels on television, I wondered why so many Shammi Kapoor songs were being aired. The reason was evident soon- enough- this wonderful actor had passed away!
Though I do not exactly belong to his generation, I did grow up listening to songs from his films and watching them- probably much before I was even aware. My parents had moved from Chennai to Bilaspur- the place where my father had his first posting as an officer in the Central Services. They did not know Hindi. In order to learn the language they took to watching Hindi films in the sole theatre that town boasted of. When I arrived on the scene, they often took me with them too ( taking turns to carry me outside the hall when I became restless and started yelling). Among the genre of films which they refer to as “ Bilaspur films” are the Shammi Kapoor films which soon became their favorite. Though I was probably unable to appreciate them during the time I saw them at Bilaspur, over the years as we moved around India, “ Man Chahe Geet” and the Sunday films on Doordarshan soon re introduced me to this world of Shammi Kapoor films.I wonder now why I liked those films and by extension Shammi so much. He was not exactly good looking like his brother Shashi and neither were his films very profound like those of Raj. He was actually quite comical what with his crazy dancing and head shaking. I remember the song “ Yeh chand sa roshan chehera” where he goes crazy on a shikara and “Tumse Accha Kaun Hai ( janwar) where he is hopping around clad in a blanket. What was unique I guess was how he lightened up this emotion called LOVE and brought in the FUN element! That, coupled with some excellent music made those films completely enjoyable!
I am told by my husband that he copied Jerry Lewis and that this was not an original act. But I don’t really care. Imagine how many Indians in small towns and villages would have heard of the American comedian? Shammi probably adapted those mannerisms into an Indian context and popularized them across the country!
One of my favorite Shammi Kapoor film songs is “Deewana Hua Badal” – the song is interesting in the sense that it begins with the Antara “ Yeh dekh ke dil jhooma…”. The voice of Rafi is central to all the Shammi films. It was only fifteen days ago that we remembered Rafi on his death anniversary – interesting coincidence! Rafi, Asha, S.D., R.D., Shankar Jaikishan, Madan Mohan and O.P. Nayyar are part of this magic.. Shammi Kapoor!
Some hard to forget songs from Shammi Kapoor films are “ Dil ke jharokhe mein tujh ko bithakar”, “ Ai gulbadan”, “ Aja Aja Main hoon pyar tera”. While many of my friends rave about his crazy antics in “ Yahoo, koi mujhe jungle kahe” my personal favorite where it comes to his antics are in the song “ Oh mere sona re sona re..” He is so adorable.. especially in that part of the song where Asha Parekh grabs his bag and breaks the handle!
There were a lot of similar heroes during that period – Biswajeet, Joy Mukherjee but somehow this guy with the green eyes who made weird faces caught every one’s fancy! He invariably wore a suit in almost all his films so that his girth was well camouflaged. He did not have Dev Anand’s flamboyance but then he was not Dev Anand! My sister and I used to start giggling whenever we saw Shammi in a sad song like ‘ahsaan tera hog mujh par” but then, as I had mentioned earlier, it was the happiness and energy of love that he was good at portraying not the pain. He acted with some of the most beautiful heroines of his times- Sharmila, Mumtaz, Saira Bano, Asha Parekh Rajshree…, giving us all so many wonderful films and great songs to remember him by!!Over the years, Hindi films started being called “Bollywood” films. They were no longer shot in Simla or Kashmir but in Switzerland. The songs started sounding mundane and heroines began looking like clones of each other ( brown hair, white skin, light eyes). The heroes became muscle men with “six packs” . FM radio replaced Vividh Bharti in our lives and I moved south where even FM radio did not play any Hindi songs! There was World Space Radio for a while where Radio Farishta took me back to that world. Television started airing all the shaadi songs from those immensely forgettable movies and I stopped watching it. I think I renounced voluntarily the world I loved so much – that of Hindi films.
But whenever I hear one of those old Shammi film numbers, I feel that I am on a time machine back to the good old days! Each one of those films seem to be calling out to me “ bar bar dekho"Rest in Peace Shammi- Tumse accha kaun hai?